Children’s specializes in treating infants who have apnea and bradycardia, as well as infants whose siblings have died from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or who have had an apparent life-threatening event (ALTE).
What is apnea?
Apnea is the stopping of breathing for 20 seconds or longer once or many times a day. Many premature infants, especially those born more before 32 weeks of pregnancy, have apnea. The more premature the baby is the more frequent his apnea spells can be.
There are two types of apnea. Most premature babies have both kinds.
- Central apnea is caused by an immature brain. Many premature babies may not have developed the ability to breathe nonstop on their own. A premature baby outgrows central apnea as his brain matures.
- Obstructive apnea is when a premature infant’s fragile airway is blocked. The blockage may be caused by mucous, or the baby may be in a position that kinks the airway. Suctioning the airway or changing the baby's position usually relieves the problem. Growth and strengthening of the tissues in the airway often solve obstructive apnea.
What is bradycardia?
Bradycardia is periods of low heart rate. Premature infants, particularly those born before 32 weeks of pregnancy, are more likely to have periods of bradycardia due to the immaturity of their lungs and the inability to maintain the oxygen levels in their blood. However, as babies mature, their natural heart rates tend to become slower anyway.
Compared to the average newborn's heart rate of 140 beats per minute (bpm), an infant is considered to have bradycardia when:
- The heart rate is below 100 bpm in a premature infant
- The heart rate is below 80 bpm in an infant born to term
- The heart rate is below 60 bpm in an infant 3 months or older
The drop in heart rate is considered normal if the heart rate returns to normal by itself within five to 10 seconds.